English tips from the school formerly known as Peking University

old logo of Peking UniversityPeking University, China’s most prestigious school, has announced that it is planning a change. First, the school’s logo will be redesigned. The original was made by Lu Xun, who was apparently not just a great writer and an impassioned advocate of romanization and critic of Chinese characters but also an artist.

Significantly, the new logo design will feature a different English name: the University of Beijing. This is especially interesting because “Peking University” had officially remained as such in English despite China’s official adoption of Hanyu Pinyin.

Moreover, “Beijing University,” which would match the Mandarin Chinese name of Beijing Daxue (English and Mandarin have much the same syntax), is not to be used except in informal contexts. Instead, the name is to be the “University of Beijing.” That is, according to the school, because in formal English names the place name has to come after “college” or “university”:

Běijīng Dàxué zài shuōmíng zhōng zhǐchū, gēnjù Yīngyǔ yǔfǎ guīzé, dìmíng zuòwéi xíngróngcí de xuéxiào míngzi wǎngwǎng zhǐshì yòngyú kǒuyǔ de jiǎnchēng, ér zài zhèngshì de shūmiànyǔ zhōng zé yīnggāi jiāng dìmíng zuòwéi míngcí zhìyú “xuéyuàn” huò “dàxué” zhīhòu.

Danwei, where I first spotted this story, has helpfully translated one delightfully arch reaction to this English lesson.

Evidently the professors at PKU’s English department will have to give new names to the following British and American universities according to PKU’s English grammar rules:

Princeton University, New York University, Boston University, Syracuse University, Lancaster University, Coventry University, Cranfield University, Bournemouth University, Keele University, Middlesex University, Roehampton University, Athabasca University, Brandon University….

Would the leaders of PKU please inform the leaders of those universities the next time they meet with them? Some, like like Princeton University, New York University and such, are considerably more famous than PKU. Try to have them follow PKU’s English grammar rule first, and then it can become a wordwide rule of English grammar, and PKU can have a world-leading innovation.


Before I close, here are a couple more points:

  • Peking is not the Wade-Giles spelling for what in Hanyu Pinyin is Beijing. (The Wade-Giles spelling for Beijing is Pei-ching, which never caught on in English.)
  • The correct way to write 北大 in Pinyin is Bei-Da, not Bei Da or Beida. Short forms of proper nouns take a hyphen, according to the rules for hyphens in Pinyin.


2 thoughts on “English tips from the school formerly known as Peking University

  1. Indeed, I think Harvard and the rest should change their names because UB believes it to be a rule of English. And by the same token, since so many in the west believe it’s better, I think UB should lead the way in romanizing the Chinese languages.

  2. Pingback: Pinyin news » language reformer Qian Xuantong remembered

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